Historical fiction writer, Karen Powell, has new novel, The River Within, out via Europa Editions. Set in Yorkshire in the 1950s there is traditional setting to this text, which makes it comparable to the work of Thomas Hardy and Helen Dunmore. Flawed characters and the surroundings expectedly make up the crux of this novel, a page-turning saga.
It is the summer of 1955. Alexander, Tom and his sister Lennie, discover the body of their childhood friend Danny Masters in the river that runs through Starome, a village on the Richmond estate in North Yorkshire. His death is a mystery. Did he jump, or was it just an accident?
Lady Venetia Richmond, having just lost her husband, Angus, has no time to dwell on the death. She is far too busy trying to keep the estate together, whilst contemplating the nature of her son, who displays so many alarming traits. Alexander, sole heir to Richmond Hall, grows elusive, with his behaviour becoming increasingly erratic.
Lennie Fairweather, ‘child of nature’ and daughter of the late Sir Angus’s private secretary, Tom Weather can be found in the garden. In love with Alexander, she longs to escape life with her over-protective father and domineering brother, but this love doesn’t come without it’s own problems. Alexander is unpredictable though, hard to pin down, especially when it comes to the topic of marriage. She soon has her concerns on these “feelings” that he seems to hold for her.
As the truth about Danny’s death emerges, other stories arise to the surface that threaten to destroy the certain future for Richmond Hall and, ultimately, their very way of life. All must be kept hushed.
A tragic whodunnit with flawed characters and a grounding in setting, there is many head nods to classics within Powell’s work. She does a remarkably fine job in creating a narcissistic and somewhat schizophrenic character through Alexander, who renders the book readable and interesting. The strength of the book is in the description of him and the setting, and these alone render the book a delicious read. I will look out for more of Powell’s sagas.
The River Within is available now, published by Europa Editions